Okay, first things first: I’ve never been a huge zombie fan. I watched the first season of “The Walking Dead” but got bored a couple of episodes into season 2 and left it there. But where “The Walking Dead” tells the story of a small group of people against the (largely implied) backdrop of a global calamity, World War Z attempts to show you the global catastrophe through the eyes of its main character Gerry, played with a weary sincerity by Brad Pitt.
Brad does the best he can with his underwritten role, which is just as well as he has some heavy lifting to do in a largely forgettable, frequently changing and ill-defined cast of supporting characters who drift in and out of the story. Director Marc Forster brings all the narrative skill he showed in “Quantum Of Solace” to bear on this adaptation of Max Brooks’ novel, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. There are a couple of stand-out set pieces, particularly the fall of Jerusalem but to be honest, there’s not much more in the film that the trailer hasn’t already shown you. The plot is all over the place though and hangs together only through coincidence and contrivance, with a fair few plot threads unceremoniously abandoned or left dangling without pay-off or resolution.
It’s been well documented that this was a troubled production with rewrites and re-shoots aplenty and it shows. The film is also hampered by its lack of an adult certificate meaning there’s a tendency towards wide shots of action and very quick cuts away from anything even resembling blood or gore. It also results in a lot of non-zombie scenes to clumsily deliver chunks of exposition. The film tries to compensate for its patchy narrative by keeping the action moving from exotic location to exotic location: a quickly overrun Philadelphia to the middle of the Atlantic to South Korea (and the mention of a much more interesting story taking place in North Korea which we disappointingly don’t get to see) to Israel and finally to…um…Cardiff.
Although the method of arrival in Wales is an exciting set piece, from that point the film slows to a suspense-free crawl and the third act looks and feels like a middling episode of “Torchwood”, just without the hackneyed schtick of Captain Jack Harkness. Despite the global nature of the stakes, the film is palpably lacking in tension or surprise and has absolutely nothing original to say or do with the zombie genre. At the dwindling end of the current Zombie craze, if you’re not doing something new and different (such as, say, BBC3’s “In The Flesh”) you might as well not bother.
What could have been a chilling thrill-ride through a viral apocalypse incarnate ends up being a boring CGI travelogue. Word War Z? More like World War Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.